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"Deke, I think I need to have a talk with you about how to treat a lady. Pressuring her isn't going to help." Billy said to Deacon with a note of sympathy in his voice.
Deacon looked at Laura and whispered, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to try and tell you what to do."
Laura looked at Deacon with a tender smile and said, "It's okay Deacon. You were just being honest."
"Laura, if you would like, you could come over to our place and change into something... less bloody." Billy said gently.
After looking at her dress again, Laura said, "That's a good idea. But I think most of my clothes are torn up or filthy."
"If you wouldn't mind 'boy clothes' you could probably wear something of mine." Jake said as he looked at her to gauge her size.
Laura looked into Jake's eyes to find honest concern and a desire to help her.
"Sure, thanks." Laura said hesitantly.
"And when you're all cleaned up, I'm sure we can talk one of these men into driving us to the store for some clothes." Mona said as she looked around.
"I'll be happy to." Billy said with a smile.
"Come on Laura, you can look at my stuff and pick out something to wear." Jake said in a friendly voice.
"While you attend to Laura's needs, I will contact Patriarch Short and inquire of my duties." Xain said seriously.
"I'll join you when we're done." Jake said and placed his index and middle fingers over Xain's briefly.
Xain betrayed a small smile at the tender gesture, then left the room.
Jake glanced at Laura, then led her and Deacon upstairs to his room.
"It's not usually this crazy around here." Allen said to Stan, Sopek and Mona.
Kevin looked at Allen dubiously.
Allen smiled and shyly said, "Okay, maybe it is."
Juana drew Allen away from the gathering and quietly said, "I must take Ricardo and Edovina to have their baths before it is too late."
"I understand Juana. Thank you for all your help today. Reuben can stay here with the boys until bedtime if you like." Allen offered gently.
"I want to bathe with Ricardo." Reuben said immediately.
"You do?" Juana asked with surprise.
"Yeah. Kenny and Kevin showed me that bathing together is a way of showing that you like someone. I want to show Ricardo that I like him." Reuben said seriously.
Allen smiled and said, "That sounds like a wonderful idea Reuben. I'll see you in the morning." Allen said as he squatted down to give Reuben a hug.
"I love you Uncle Allen." Reuben said seriously.
"I love you too Reuben. Have a good night." Allen said tenderly.
Allen noticed Ricardo watching everything and gestured for him to 'come here'.
"Goodnight Ricardo. I love you very much." Allen said softly.
"I love you too Unca Allen." Ricardo said as he hugged Allen tightly.
"He spoke much better this morning." Juana said with concern.
"Yes. He was speaking too well for a three year old. Don't worry Juana, he's just fine." Allen said as he kissed Ricardo on the cheek and finally released him from the hug.
"Come on Ricardo so we can have our bath." Reuben said with enthusiasm.
Allen and Juana watched with amusement as the two boys hurry to the front door.
Jake opened the outer door of his room and automatically walked into the bedroom.
After a moment of looking around the peaceful haven, Laura said, "I love your room. It's so... relaxing."
"It's Xain's room too." Jake said with a smile of pride.
Laura looked at Jake curiously and asked, "Why do you have a kid for a boyfriend?"
The smile fell off Jake's face as he said, "Xain isn't a kid. He's my soulmate and I love him more than anyone or anything in the world."
"Sorry... It just seems a little strange." Laura said hesitantly.
Jake brought his welling emotions under control and said, "Xain may be young, but he's old enough to understand love. We love each other and are going to be married when he turns fourteen."
Laura's eyes went wide at the statement.
"Really?" Deacon asked from beside Laura.
"Yeah. It's all planned. His Father and our Dad have both said it's okay... Hopefully you two can be at the ceremony. It's going to be on Vulcan." Jake said with his peaceful smile back in place.
"It's another planet..." Laura sputtered in wonder.
"Yeah. I'll be there." Deacon said firmly.
"Good. Now let's get Laura's clothes so she can get cleaned up." Jake said in a casual tone and led them through the dressing room to the closet.
"We'll be back in a few minutes. I'm going to grab my portfolio and wait for Laura to get cleaned up." Billy said as he saw Laura and Deacon walking down the stairs.
"That will give me a chance to show Sopek, Stan and Mona around the house." Allen said with a smile.
"We'll see you in a few." Billy said as he walked with Deacon and Laura to the door.
"Would you close the door?" Kenny asked as he led the way into his bedroom.
Kevin closed the door and looked at Kenny with question.
"When that guy hit me, I heard you." Kenny said absently.
"He hurt you, it made me mad." Kevin said, not understanding his brother's mood.
Kenny pulled Kevin into a hug and said, "I heard it in your voice, I felt it, you really love me."
"Yeah, I told you a bunch of times." Kevin said, relaxing into the hug.
"I know, but this was different. You fought to protect me." Kenny said in wonder.
"So did you." Kevin said quietly.
"What?" Kenny asked in confusion.
"I saw when that guy was gonna hit me in the head. You got on top of me and I felt it when he hit you instead." Kevin said as he pulled back to look Kenny in the eyes.
"I forgot about that." Kenny said with a weak smile.
"So I know that you love me just as much as I love you." Kevin said seriously.
"Yeah, I do." Kenny said and pulled Kevin close to his chest again.
A long moment of silence fell over the brothers as they thought about their feelings.
"Do you think maybe we can do something, like, just the two of us?" Kenny asked as he held Kevin tightly.
"Yeah, we can talk to Poppa about it and tell him we need some private time... but he'll probably think we're gonna have sex." Kevin finished with a giggle.
"Why would he think that?" Kenny asked as he pulled away from Kevin to look him in the eyes.
"Because when he told us Jake and Xain needed private time, that's what he meant." Kevin said honestly.
"Do you mean while we were swimming, they were..." Kenny trailed off with wide eyes.
"Yeah. Poppa said he wasn't sure what they would be doing... but I think they did it." Kevin finished with a shy giggle.
Kenny looked at Kevin and thought about it for a minute before saying, "Good for them. I hope they had fun."
Kevin looked at Kenny with question.
"I love Jake and Xain. I want them to be happy and them being boyfriends makes them really happy." Kenny said as he looked into Kevin's eyes.
"Yeah. I guess so. I guess I always thought sex was, I don't know, wrong or something." Kevin said shyly.
"I think it's wrong if you're not in love." Kenny said in thought.
Kevin thought about the words for a moment, then smiled and nodded in agreement.
"Let's go downstairs so we can see Billy's pictures. Then we can try to talk to Pop alone for a minute." Kenny said seriously.
"Yeah." Kevin said with a smile.
"What in the world are *you* going to do with a kitchen like this?" Mona asked incredulously as Allen was taking the group on a tour.
"I can cook." Allen said in a wounded tone as he stopped to look at Mona.
"You can follow the directions on Mac & Cheese. There's a difference." Mona said flatly.
Allen smiled and said, "I've learned how to cook a few more things since I left home Mona. But you're right. I'm not that good of a cook. Juana and Xain have been taking care of most of the cooking, they're both really good at it."
Sopek looked at Allen curiously and finally said, "From your words and actions, I surmise that you hold the abilities of Xain in high esteem."
"I do. Not only is he a talented cook, but he's a wonderful big brother to Kenny and Kevin and an amazing friend to Jake." Allen said with pride in his voice.
"It had always been my belief that a Vulcan would have difficulty conforming to Human expectations in a domestic setting." Sopek said carefully.
"I suppose that could happen. But we don't try to make Xain conform to our expectations. In our house we don't see Xain as a Vulcan, we see him as Xain. Each of the boys is special in their own way so as long as we're respectful of each other's differences, we get along fine." Allen finished with a happy smile.
"What's next on our tour?" Mona asked as she looked around.
"The family room." Allen said and led the way out of the kitchen.
"Chief Tecumseh said to come over at 10 in the morning. He wants to show you around the camp personally." Cory said from the view screen.
"Do you know if 'he who is my father' has made arrangements for my Vulcan tutor?" Xain asked in a neutral voice.
"I don't know any details, but Chief Tecumseh mentioned that he had spoken to your father." Cory said seriously.
Xain nodded in acceptance.
"Is there anything the rest of us need to know before we go?" Jake asked from Xain's side.
"No. It's like a regular school except that there are a lot more teachers." Cory said simply.
"Why do they have more teachers?" Jake asked curiously.
"Oh, it's because most of the guys need some kind of special attention. Some of the guys have emotional problems and need someone who cares about how they're doing. Some haven't been in school for a few years and there's even one guy who's older than me and never been in a school before this." Cory said frankly.
"Wow, I was worried that I might have trouble because I haven't been to school for a while." Jake said in thought.
"You'll be fine. Just treat everyone with respect and no one will have any problem with you at all." Cory said with a smile.
"I'll make sure to tell Kevin. I know he's worried." Jake said with concern.
"Tell him that his Clan Brothers will be there if he needs us. Hopefully that will make him feel better." Cory said in a considering voice.
"Yeah. I bet it will." Jake said peacefully.
"Uncle Chip wants you guys to come over and visit after you visit Camp Little Eagle." Cory said with a smile.
Jake looked at Cory curiously.
"Camp Little Eagle is almost right across the street from Uncle Chip's house." Cory explained.
"Oh, cool." Jake said with a smile.
Xain nodded and said, "We will tell father at the conclusion of this transmission."
"Good, if you're ready, we can discuss the details of the database." Cory said and changed the view of his monitor to show Noah and Caleb standing behind him.
"Proceed." Xain said calmly.
"We're sending you the system analysis Noah performed and the proposed fields that Caleb compiled." Cory said as he pressed a key on his terminal.
"I have received the information." Xain said as he looked at the incoming data.
'Would you like me to read it for you?' Jake asked Xain through their link.
'That would provide much assistance.' Xain responded with love and gratitude as an undercurrent to his thought.
"You have a beautiful home." Laura said as she looked around in wonder.
"I'm glad you like it. Please make yourself comfortable." Billy said as he led the way to the staircase.
"Were you really serious about me maybe living here?" Laura asked cautiously.
"Yeah, totally serious." Billy said as he hesitantly opened the door at the top of the stairs.
"This is awesome." Laura said with a gasp as she walked into the massive room
The dark, hardwood furniture gave a feeling of timeless elegance while the gold and green accent pieces around the room made it feel comfortable.
The main feature of the room was a four post hardwood bed covered with a green comforter with gold threads in an intricate pattern.
"This will be your room for as long as you choose to stay with us." Billy said quietly.
Laura looked at Billy with disbelief.
"This was Benny's room. Benny was the guy who left me this house in his will. I felt like I would be disrespecting his memory if I moved into his bedroom. But now... this feels right. If you decide to stay, we can redecorate it any way you want... it's your room now. Oh yeah, and you have your own bathroom right over there." Billy finished with a smile.
Laura ran to Billy and pulled him into a tight hug.
"Thank you, I wouldn't change anything in here. It's the most beautiful room I've ever seen." Laura said with excitement.
"My room is right next door and the next room down the hall is Deacon's. If you'll go ahead and get cleaned up, I'm going to get my portfolio together and I think Deacon has some new clothes and things that he needs to put away." Billy said as he glanced at his brother.
"Oh yeah, I forgot." Deacon said with a smile.
"Just come downstairs when you're done." Billy said as he walked toward the door.
"Billy?" Laura called in a serious voice.
Billy stopped and looked at her with question.
"Thank you, really." Laura said with absolute sincerity.
"My pleasure." Billy said with a gentle smile, then left the room, followed by Deacon.
"Are we interrupting?" Allen asked as he took one step into the family room.
"Come on in Dad. Xain and I are just looking over the specs for the database he's going to design for the Clan." Jake said warmly.
"How's it going?" Allen asked with interest.
"My inability to read the English language is going to hinder my ability to design the input interface." Xain said in thought, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Allen looked at Sopek and Stan speculatively.
"The Libra Interface?" Stan finally said.
"Yeah. What do you think Sopek? Is it ready for a practical trial?" Allen asked seriously.
"The module has passed all scheduled tests. A practical trial would be indicated." Sopek said slowly.
"What about the Vulcan-English lexicon?" Allen asked in thought.
"We have completed all reasonable preparation. The multimapping routine that T'Amara designed is performing within design specifications." Sopek said confidently.
"And from what I can see of the fields that they're going to be using, there shouldn't be any problem at all." Stan said as he read over Xain's shoulder.
"Do you think anyone will have a problem with us using it outside the project?" Allen asked with concern.
Sopek looked at the screen, then turned to Xain and asked, "This database will be for the exclusive use of Clan Short?"
"That is correct. A standard Vulcan database is insufficient for their needs due to the level of precision required in the query structure. Human commercial databases are overwritten to try to accommodate all possible users. The code becomes so vast and complex that errors occur that may threaten the integrity of the data." Xain said professionally.
"That's what project Libra is all about. If you'll promise not to share the code we give you outside the Clan, you could use the Libra Interface on a standard Vulcan database." Stan said with excitement.
"You'd actually be helping us out by testing our software. We're confident that it is bug free, but we're still not agreed on how user friendly it is." Allen said honestly.
"The Libra Interface will allow your programmers and users to use either Vulcan or English input." Sopek said without expression.
"I don't understand all the programming stuff, but it sounds like just what we need." Jake said and looked at Xain with hope.
"I agree. Further investigation is indicated." Xain said seriously.
"Xain, do you know how to network my computer into your terminal?" Allen asked in thought.
"Of course." Xain said as he looked at Allen.
"I'm going to finish showing everyone around. Once you have the network established, open the Libra Interface file and start reading the documentation. I think you'll agree that this will work out perfectly for your database." Allen finished with a smile.
"Thank you Father. I will do so immediately." Xain said and betrayed a small smile of thanks.
"Let's leave these guys to their work, the living room is the next stop on our tour." Allen said as he walked to the double doors.
"Um, I don't do 'boy clothes' very well." Laura said hesitantly.
Deacon and Billy looked up at her with matching looks of surprise.
"You look great." Deacon said in wonder as he looked at the slender boy before him.
Laura gave a shy smile and mumbled, "Thanks."
"Laura, you're extremely attractive no matter which way you dress." Billy said honestly as he noticed her pale blue eyes and delicate facial features.
"Really?" Laura asked with disbelief.
"Absolutely." Deacon said firmly.
"I always thought I was too... feminine." Laura said cautiously.
"Not at all. You're beautiful. Anyone who says different has to be either blind or jealous because you're one of the most attractive guys I've ever seen." Billy said frankly as he looked at Laura's fine wispy golden blond hair.
Laura blushed and hung her head shyly at the words.
"I can't wait till the other guys see you." Deacon said with excitement.
"They're not going to believe that this is Laura." Billy said with a smile at his brother.
"When I'm in boy clothes, I usually go by my real name." Laura said cautiously.
"Which is?" Billy asked expectantly.
"Would you like us to call you Lawrence now?" Billy asked quietly.
"I think so. It just feels wrong to be called Laura when I'm trying to act like a boy." Lawrence said in thought.
"That's no problem. When you're dressed like a boy, you're Lawrence, when you're dressed like a girl, you're Laura... who are you when you're naked?" Deacon asked seriously.
Lawrence blushed and said, "I guess you'll have to get me naked to find out."
"You walked right into that one Deke." Billy said with a laugh at Deacon's scarlet blush.
"But I guess that does bring up something we should talk about." Billy said in a more serious voice.
Lawrence and Deacon looked at Billy with question.
"Do you guys know about safe sex?" Billy asked with concern.
Deacon and Lawrence nodded seriously.
"Then that's all I'm asking. If you fool around with each other or the guys across the street, just play safe. If you're old enough to have sex, you're old enough to be safe. Got it?" Billy asked as he looked from one teenager to the other.
"Got it." Deacon said with a blush still glowing on his face.
"Yeah." Lawrence whispered.
"Good. Let's go. They're all waiting on us." Billy said happily.
"Lawrence, have you decided yet if you want to be my sister... or brother?" Deacon asked hopefully.
Lawrence looked around the room and his gaze fixed on Deacon and Billy standing side by side.
"Yeah, I think I would."
"This place is really amazing." Mona said as she took a seat on the couch.
"I think so too... come on in guys. I just finished showing everyone around." Allen said to Kenny and Kevin standing in the living room doorway.
Both boys took seats side by side on the couch beside Mona.
"Would anyone like some coffee or anything?" Allen asked as he looked around the room.
"Do you have any beer?" Mona asked hopefully.
"Not a bit. But you said you were clothes shopping with Laura later, you could pick some up on the way back." Allen said with a shrug.
"Some host you are." Mona grumbled.
"Stan, Sopek, would you like some coffee?" Allen asked with a smile.
"Yeah, sure." Stan said casually.
Sopek considered for a moment before answering, "Yes, thank you."
Stan looked at Sopek with surprise, but didn't say anything.
"How long are you going to stay with us Grandma?" Kevin asked Mona quietly.
"I'll have to leave Friday morning. I have to work Friday night." Mona said gently to Kevin.
"Will you be able to visit us a lot?" Kevin asked hopefully.
"You bet I will. Especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming." Mona said with a smile.
"Good, I like you being here." Kevin said as he snuggled into Mona's side.
"I like being here too Kevin." Mona said with a contented smile.
"Here we go." Allen said as he rested a tray on the coffee table .
"You can help yourselves to cream or sugar if you like." Allen said, then picked up two tall glasses from the tray and turned to face Kevin and Kenny.
"And for my boys, we have milkshakes." Allen said as he presented one to each boy.
"I get one too?" Kenny asked with a great smile.
"Sure. I thought you'd like it." Allen said as he picked up his own coffee and took a seat in his favorite chair.
"I thought I was going to be spoiling the boys tonight." Mona said as she looked at Allen curiously.
"Poppa gives me milkshakes because I'm little and skinny. The doctor on the Enterprise told him to." Kevin said seriously.
"Kevin's is a nutritional supplement in the form of a milkshake. Kenny's is a regular milkshake." Allen said with a smile.
"Your children were seen by the doctor on board the Enterprise?" Sopek asked in confirmation.
"Yes. Commander Dodds of the Enterprise is a family friend. He was worried about the boys so he suggested that I take them to the Enterprise to be checked out." Allen said, then took a sip of his coffee.
"Uncle Chip took us on a tour of the ship and even showed us the bridge." Kenny said with excitement.
"Count yourself as fortunate. Not many people have had the honor of seeing the flagship of the Federation first hand." Sopek said seriously.
Stan looked at Sopek curiously, trying to understand his more relaxed attitude.
"Yeah. It was really cool. Then Uncle Chip bought me a model of the Enterprise, a really good one." Kenny said happily.
A knock on the door stopped further conversation.
"Come on in Billy. You're family, you don't have to knock." Kenny said as he answered the door.
"It's just the polite thing to do Ken." Billy said as he led Lawrence and Deacon into the house.
"Laura?" Kenny asked in wonder.
"He's Lawrence when he's a boy." Deacon said quietly.
"You look really great." Kenny said with a smile.
"Thanks." Lawrence said shyly.
"Come on." Kenny said and took Lawrence by the hand to lead him into the living room.
"Oh, you look wonderful." Mona said in wonder.
Lawrence glanced around the room at everyone looking at him and an expression of panic came over his face.
After a moment of frozen silence, Lawrence dashed out of the room.
"Was it something I said?" Mona asked in confusion.
"No. I just don't think Lawrence can handle too many compliments. From what little he's told me, someone's been telling him that he's ugly and too feminine... and probably a lot worse." Billy said in thought.
"I'll go talk to him." Deacon said as he started walking toward the door.
Before he could reach the door, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to talk to Laura first. I think I understand what she's going through."
"Okay grandma." Deacon said with a smile.
Mona gave Deacon a quick hug, then walked past him out of the room.
"Laura? Do you want to talk about it?" Mona asked quietly when she found Lawrence standing in the dining room, staring out the window.
"I'm Lawrence now." He said without turning.
"Come here baby, I think I know what you're going through. Maybe I can help." Mona said as she slowly approached.
Lawrence turned to reveal the tears in his eyes.
"Come on." Mona whispered as she held out her arms.
Lawrence took a hesitant step, then fell into Mona's embrace as if pulled by a magnet.
"People have always told me that I'm too big to be a real woman." Mona said softly.
Lawrence's only response was to hold onto Mona tighter.
"People assume that I'm a lesbian or a drag queen because I'm bigger than the average woman." Mona continued as she gently rubbed Lawrence's back.
"It hurts. But it's taught me something too." Mona said quietly.
"What?" Lawrence mumbled into Mona's ample bosom.
"To be myself. If I try to be dainty or girley the only thing I accomplish is making myself miserable. I wasn't meant to be a tiny 110 pound 1950's housewife." Mona said in a distant voice.
"But I don't know who I am." Lawrence said as he pulled away enough to look into Mona's eyes.
"That's okay. You're someplace safe where we'll give you all the time you need to discover just who you are." Mona said with a gentle smile.
"But... I don't even know if I want to be a boy or a girl." Lawrence said with anguish in his eyes.
"Why did you start dressing like a girl?" Mona asked quietly.
"Because my dad used to say I was too prissy to be a boy, then he'd hit me... I just... if I wasn't good at being a boy, I thought I should try being a girl..." Lawrence trailed off into tears.
"Was being a girl easier?" Mona asked with concern.
"No. I was always afraid someone would find out that I wasn't really a girl and people treated me like I was stupid and the pantyhose are hot and itch like crazy." Lawrence rambled.
"Yes they do." Mona said with a smile.
"I just... I don't know. I just want to be like everyone else." Lawrence said in a lost voice.
"That's the one thing I can't help you with." Mona said with regret.
At Lawrence's hurt and questioning look, Mona continued, "When I was your age I had a terrible time. I was nearly a foot taller than all of the other girls in my class and most of the boys. As time went on, some of them caught up to me but I was still a lot bigger than most of them."
"All I wanted, all I wished for was to be like everyone else... but I never was. I was very unhappy for a lot of years. It wasn't until I met a very special man that I understood." Mona said distantly.
"Understood what?" Lawrence asked with interest.
"That being different isn't a bad thing. It can be a wonderful gift." Mona said as she met Lawrence's interested gaze.
"A gift? How?" Lawrence asked desperately.
"All it takes is one person to show you your gift. When you see the light in their eyes and the love, you'll know it's for you. Not the boy or girl on the outside, but the person on the inside." Mona said tenderly.
"But what if I'm myself and I never find anyone like that?" Lawrence asked with worry.
"I think you already have." Mona said with a small smile.
"You?" Lawrence asked as he looked deeply into Mona's eyes.
"No baby. I love you just like one of my grandchildren. But there is someone here who I believe loves you down to your soul." Mona said gently.
"Deacon." Lawrence said in a whisper.
"Whether you're Lawrence or Laura, I think he'll be your closest and dearest friend if you'll let him." Mona said quietly.
"He wants me to be his sister." Lawrence said in thought.
"He wants to be close to you. I think that's the safest way he knows to do that." Mona said honestly.
"Thank you Mona, I feel a lot better now." Lawrence said with a weak smile.
"You can call me grandma if you want." Mona said with love.
"Thank you Grandma." Lawrence whispered and hugged her again.
"Where are those pictures I've been hearing about?" Mona asked as she walked into the living room with Lawrence under her arm.
"Right here, we're just waiting for you to get in here." Billy said with relief at the sight of Lawrence.
"Well, bring them out, we still have some shopping to do tonight." Mona said as she took a seat in the middle of the couch across from Billy.
Lawrence automatically sat beside Mona, resting against her side.
Deacon moved from his position beside Kenny and sat beside Lawrence.
Kevin and Kenny moved to sit on Mona's other side, Kevin beside Mona and Kenny beside Kevin.
Allen looked at Mona and gave a gentle smile at the sight of all the children gathered around his mother.
"I do a variety of work, so I have these books separated by subject matter. Sopek, I think you might like this one." Billy said and handed a brown leather bound portfolio to Sopek.
"Mona, you'd probably like this one." Billy said as he handed her a black folder.
Billy glanced at Allen who was sitting beside him and handed him a folder too.
"Why did Billy take a picture of a car?" Kevin asked as he looked at the picture Mona was examining carefully.
"This isn't just a car, it's a 1968 Corvette." Mona said as she soaked in every detail of the beautiful image.
Kenny stretched to see the picture and said, "That's really nice. It's a beautiful car."
"Yes it is." Mona said softly before turning the page.
"Where was this photograph taken?" Sopek asked with interest as he turned the book for Billy to see.
"That one was taken in Hawaii, they have some spectacular waterfalls there." Billy said in fond memory.
"When next I take personal leave time, I believe I would like to visit this location. Exploration of this environment should prove satisfying." Sopek said seriously.
"I've always wanted to visit Hawaii." Stan said as he looked at the beautiful picture.
"When we return to our duties in the morning, we should schedule concurrent leave time so we may explore this location together." Sopek said reasonably.
Stan looked at Sopek with shock.
"Unless you have committed your leave time to other purposes?" Sopek asked curiously.
"No. I haven't. I'd love to go to Hawaii with you." Stan sputtered.
Billy glanced at Allen who was sitting, staring at the picture before him with wide eyes.
"I've never had any nudes published, but I did this set just to see how they would turn out... what do you think?" Billy asked hopefully.
Allen looked up from the picture and into Billy's eyes.
"Does that mean you approve?" Billy asked with the beginning of concern in his voice.
"You're so beautiful." Allen said in a whisper.
"Keep that. Those pictures are yours now... only for you." Billy said gently.
Allen closed the book and held it to his chest.
"And maybe one of these days, when you're ready, I can take some pictures of you?" Billy asked shyly.
Allen blushed and whispered, "Only for you."
"Father, Uncle Chip has invited us to visit his home after our inspection of Camp Little Eagle." Xain said as he and Jake left the family room.
"That sounds like a good idea." Allen said with a smile.
"Uncle Chip?" Mona asked curiously.
"Commander Charles Dodds. The kids call him Uncle Chip." Allen said happily.
"Oh." Mona said in thought.
"But I think Teri and Juana have planned a 'ladies day' over at Teri's house. If you like, you could go over there." Allen said consideringly.
"I don't know. I'll have to think about it." Mona said in a serious voice.
"Do you think I could go to the 'ladies day?" Lawrence asked hopefully.
Mona looked at Lawrence's expectant expression and said, "I tell you what. If you want to go to the 'ladies day', I'll go with you."
Lawrence smiled broadly at the suggestion.
"Great. Xain, do you know when we have to be there?" Allen asked as he turned to face Xain and Jake.
"Chief Tecumseh will be expecting us at 10." Jake answered seriously.
"Good. We can all go and look at Camp Little Eagle, then the guys can go to Chip's and the girls can go to Teri's." Allen said, pleased with the arrangement.
"What's Camp Little Eagle?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"It's the place where Kevin, Jake and Xain will be going to school." Allen said simply.
"Where is Deacon going to go to school?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"Well, we haven't decided that yet. Since we're going to look at the camp tomorrow, Deacon may decide to go there. If not, we can look at the public and private schools in the area." Billy said in thought.
Lawrence thought carefully before saying, "I think I should be a boy tomorrow, at least while we're looking at the camp."
"Why is that?" Mona asked curiously.
"I don't know, it's kind of hard to explain." Lawrence said with difficulty.
"Is it because you don't want to take the chance that people at the camp will find out that you're not a girl?" Mona asked cautiously.
"No. Not really. It's more like, I'm used to being a boy at school. I've always been a boy at school. After school is over, then I'm a girl." Lawrence said with difficulty.
Mona nodded and said, "Then you should be a boy when you visit. But if you would like, we can take your girl things with us so you can change when we're done."
Lawrence smiled and said, "That'd be great, then we can sit around and visit."
"If no one minds, I'd like to take Mona and Lawrence to the store now before it gets too late." Billy said seriously.
Deacon looked at Billy with question.
Before Billy could say anything, Mona said, "Deacon, I think you'd probably be happier if you didn't go with us this trip... unless you like the idea of standing in the junior miss section of a clothing store for a few hours while Laura tries on everything that's her size."
Deacon got an uncomfortable look and said, "I think you're right. If it's okay with Allen, I'll stay here."
"You're always welcomed Deacon." Allen said with a chuckle.
"Then it's a plan. Ladies?" Billy said as he gestured to the living room door.
"Thank you kind sir." Mona said dramatically, then walked to the door with Lawrence at her side.
"We too must be leaving." Sopek said in a low voice.
"Yeah, some of us have to work in the morning." Stan said with a grin.
"Before you go, I'd like for Sopek to look over the Vulcan translation of the Libra documentation, just to see that I have everything Xain will need." Allen said seriously.
"Good idea. That'll give me a chance to finish my coffee." Stan said as he sat back on the couch.
"This will just take a minute." Allen said as he led Sopek to the family room.
"What's wrong T'hy'la?" Jake asked with concern.
"The thought that I may possibly have family on Earth has been a distraction." Xain said distantly.
Jake carefully placed his hand over Xain's and gave a gentle squeeze.
"I am unsure if I should pursue the possibility." Xain said as he looked into Jake's eyes.
"Thinking about maybe having family is screwing with you... causing you distress. If you do nothing, the distress will continue. If you do something, then it might turn out good or bad, but either way, you'll know for sure. You should look for your family." Jake let all emotion fall from his expression as he said, "It is logical."
Xain smiled at Jake's attempt to imitate Vulcan mannerisms and said, "I thank you for your clarification T'hy'la. Your logic is impeccable."
Jake beamed a glorious smile at the praise.
'Before I pursue my search for family, I would like to express my admiration and affection for you.' Xain said through their bond.
'I would like to express my admiration and affection for you too.' Jake sent happily in response.
'I would like to express it physically.' Xain sent with force.
'Oh' Jake sent in surprise, then smiled and sent, 'You horney little Vulcan.'
"You're behavior is noticeably different tonight. I have the feeling that it has to do with Xain." Allen said carefully.
Sopek considered his words carefully, then said, "It has always been my belief that interactions between Vulcans and Humans could only occur within the confines of a structured work environment."
"And seeing Xain fitting in and being part of our family has proven otherwise?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Correct. Your acceptance of him has proven that one need not behave as a Human to gain acceptance among Humans in a social setting." Sopek said with difficulty.
Allen considered the words, then slowly said, "Please tell me if I'm misreading the situation, but it seems to me that you're interested in Stan... as more than a coworker."
Without betraying a hint of emotion, Sopek responded, "You are not mistaken."
"What are your intentions toward Stan?" Allen asked directly.
Sopek raised an eyebrow in surprise at the brash question and said, "Please clarify why I should explain my intentions to you."
"Because Stan doesn't have a clue. If you intend to pursue friendship, I'll leave you to it. You're doing fine. If you are planning on something more... intimate. You may need help." Allen said frankly.
Sopek considered the words, then said, "If Stan would be open to the possibility, I believe I would like to pursue an intimate relationship."
Allen nodded in thought, then said, "I think I can help. Give me a minute to talk with Stan, then I'll come back and let you know what's going on."
Sopek considered carefully, then said, "I will remain until you return."
"Pop, can we talk to you for a minute?" Kenny asked hopefully.
"I need to talk to Stan right now, but as soon as Stan and Sopek have left I'll have plenty of time. Is that okay?" Allen asked carefully.
"Yeah. No rush." Kenny said with a smile.
Allen ruffled Kenny's hair, then walked to the couch where Stan was looking through the portfolio again.
"Did you guys figure it out?" Stan asked casually.
"Just about. I needed to ask you something." Allen said hesitantly.
"Yeah?" Stan said and closed the portfolio.
"Are you okay with everything? I mean, about me being gay?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Oh that. Sure, no problem. I just didn't expect it, that's all." Stan said with a grin.
"Good. But what if a guy was interested in you? How would you feel about that?" Allen asked cautiously.
"Are you coming on to me?" Stan asked with surprise.
"No, I'm not. I've already got someone that I'm interested in. I was just curious." Allen said seriously.
"I'm usually into women, but... I guess it would depend on the guy. If I found someone that I really liked, I suppose I'd go for it." Stan said distantly.
Allen smiled and said, "Thanks Stan. That's all I wanted to know."
"You're not going to try and fix me up or anything are you?" Stan asked with concern.
"Not unless you ask me to." Allen said with a serious expression as he stood.
Stan nodded and said, "Well, I'm not going to ask you yet, but... God Allen, it gets lonely in that little apartment. The weekends are the worst."
Allen sat down again and said, "If you wanted, I could help."
"I'm not going to intrude on your family. As great as it is here... I need something of my own... someone." Stan trailed off.
"That's wasn't what I had in mind. I think I know what you're looking for... If you want, I could help." Allen said in a softer voice.
"Yeah." Stan whispered as he looked at the floor.
"Just a second." Allen said and hurried to the family room.
"He's open to the idea." Allen said as he rushed in.
"Did you tell him of my interest?" Sopek asked, betraying a hint of panic at the thought.
"No. But he's open to the idea of being with a man. He's really lonely and I think that if you'll talk to him honestly right now, you've got a good chance of having what you both need." Allen said seriously.
"I cannot." Sopek said blankly.
Allen rolled his eyes and said, "Just come into the living room.
Hesitantly, Sopek followed Allen into the living room.
"Stan is lonely, he's not opposed to the idea of dating a guy." Allen said as he walked into the living room.
Before Stan could find his voice, Allen continued, "Sopek appreciates the time that Stan has spent with him and would be interested in their relationship moving beyond that of coworkers and friends."
Allen looked at Sopek to find him staring at Stan.
"You two work it out. Come on boys." Allen said and motioned for the boys to go into the family room.
"That was so cool Pop." Kenny said with a grand smile.
"Yeah. I never saw anyone get together before, that was awesome." Deacon said happily.
Kevin nodded his agreement.
"Yeah, it'll be great if those two end up together. Otherwise I just did the meanest, most horrible thing I've ever done." Allen said with a look of concern.